Bender: It's just... neither of us can get up when we get knocked on our back.
Fry: What? I've seen you get up off your back tons of times.
The plotline has a character display some vice, flaw, prejudice, or other negative attribute/behavior, which said character has never before this point
shown any signs of suffering from, but which they then engage in solely as the setup for some sort of One Shot
gag or An Aesop
. (In some cases, the plot claims/suggests that they've always
had this problem, even though previous episodes show otherwise.) It then vanishes totally after the end of the gag and/or plot. Sometimes this is meant to serve as Character Development
, but due to the entire process being constrained to that one single episode, it's not very convincing. If the creators are more consistent about the issue, it becomes a largely Informed Flaw
which drives several distinct episodes, but still is never observed in a character outside them. Shows up frequently in Very Special Episode
, although rarely in the Too Smart for Strangers
variant for obvious reasons...
This is distinct from writers adding enduring flaws to a Flat Character
, or hypocrisy no one notices with Moral Dissonance
. If the character has to try to lose
the vice in the same episode, they'll find Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere
(but will usually not get Flowers for Algernon Syndrome
Compare Compressed Abstinence
, Long-Lost Uncle Aesop
, Can't Get Away with Nuthin'
, Characterization Marches On
This trope is a sub-trope of Backstory of the Day
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Xxx Holic manages to give a Compressed Vice to a character who only appears in two episodes. After Watanuki manages to help convince a shy girl that her negativity is cursing her to fail and that she should try to be more positive, her more upbeat and outgoing twin suddenly turns into the sister from hell, psyching her out even worse than she ever did to herself until the poor girl is on her knees and paralyzed by the feelings of uselessness her sister is laying on her. Then, after Yuuko intervenes and the Aesop is learned, all is sunshine again.
- Himitsu no Akko-chan, the original 1969 series, manages to wish a Compressed Vice to the main character, just to scare her into her personal Aesop. In episode 32, aptly named "_____", upon meeting a deaf-mute kid, Akko-chan, out of empathy and curiosity, wishes to her magic mirror to be a deaf-mute version of herself. Upon discovering that, being speechless, she can't wish anymore, and she'll be stuck that way forever, Akko-chan breaks apart, feeling scared and useless until the mirror, reasoning that she got her Aesop about hasty wishes and physical ailments, and she understood the true courage of her new friend (who will never be seen around for the rest of the series), lifts the wish on its own accord.
- On more than one occasion in the Pokémon anime, Ash has gotten so full of himself specifically to get a Break the Haughty moment by the end of the episode, and then go back to being a reasonably humble trainer afterwards. Instances of this include his battles with Prima, Brawley, and Drake of the Elite Four. May also got this in one of her contests when she gained a Coordinator Superiority Complex out of nowhere and was reprimended for it, and then it never comes up again.
- The original Japanese version of Digimon Adventure 02 gave Hikari a crippling reliance on her brother in the infamous Dark Ocean episode. It may have been an attempt to keep her from looking too perfect, but while she does freak out at the Dark Ocean in a later episode, she doesn't mention Taichi at all.
- Louise in Familiar Of Zero went through a rapid descent into gambling addiction while trying to go undercover. Despite Saito's best attempts to stop her, she wagered larger and larger amounts until she finally placed all of their remaining funds on one bet, all without winning a single time.
- In Blackhawk #240 (which is towards the end of the New Blackhawk Era), André Blanc-Dumont has been given a crippling fear of beautiful women. He declares himself cured after punching out a man disguised as a woman. Click here for an in-depth recap.
- Many authors who worked on Iron Man gave Tony Stark's alcoholism a spin of their own, thus making him a borderline example. This trope applies largely because it is always restricted to specific plotlines. Outside these plots, he may be seen drinking but is never shown having this habit as a problem. Nevertheless, he is somewhat well known for this aspect of his character and there's no guarantee he won't go on a drinking binge again whenever someone decides they can make an innovative take on it.
- In the early 90's the Spider-Man comics had an infamous period where Mary Jane revealed right out of the blue that she used to be a smoker and a bunch of different stressful events all happening at once (such as Harry Osborn reverting back to his Green Goblin personality and the arrival of Carnage) caused her to have a relapse and take it up again. It lasted for roughly a year and a half or so before Peter was able to get her to drop the habit, and true to this trope, was never brought up again after.
- A staple of The Berenstain Bears; each book usually had Brother and/or Sister (sometimes Papa too) engaging in some kind of immoral or unhealthy behavior such as lying, eating junk food, fighting, teasing, etc. They never exhibited the behavior before and after the book ends, it's never brought up again.
- The Help Me Be Good series by Joy Berry are juvenile books that examine a vice in each title such as fighting, tattling, destroying possessions, and overeating. Each book would talk about the misbehavior, explain its aspects, how it hurts you and others, and strategies for overcoming it. Justified as the books are intended as education and self-help resources.
Live Action TV
- An episode of The Golden Girls revealed that Rose has been addicted to prescription strength pain-killers for decades. It also strongly implied that her perpetually sweet disposition is at least partially the result of taking these drugs. Despite the coda of the episode having her statement that she'll be fighting this addiction the rest of her life (albeit filled with hope that she can pull it off), it's never truly referred to again. Similar events happened to Dorothy, who had two relapses of former addictions she had beaten (smoking and gambling.) Aside from the episodes in question, they were never mentioned again.
- Joey from Blossom hates a gay guy in one episode, revealing a prejudice that hadn't previously been mentioned in the show. Later in that episode, his black sister-in-law tells him a story about how she faced discrimination as a child, causing him to renounce his prejudice as quickly as he developed it.
- A particularly offensive episode of Lizzie McGuire featured her pal Miranda becoming anorexic and then getting over it within the course of a week. It also had Gordo becoming addicted to Deeandeeaproximine... and then getting over it within the course of a week.
- An episode of The Facts of Life has Sue Ann getting, and recovering from, anorexia.
- D.J. became worried about her weight in an episode of Full House. She didn't eat for three days straight and was over-exercising. Danny helped her realize that her crash-dieting can eventually lead to developing an eating disorder.
- An episode of Diff'rent Strokes has Kimberly getting bulimia.
- An episode of Spin City had Carter trying to quit smoking, despite having never been seen touching tobacco before (or since). This episode also featured Paul getting addicted to nicotine gum.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, "Guide to School Records"- Ned is a well-intentioned, "smart but lazy" kid in the rest of the series, but this episode shows him pulling all sorts of deliberately mean pranks on his way to accruing the biggest permanent record in the school. Flashbacks are used, which (unusually for the show) were filmed just for this episode, not taken from earlier ones, further playing up the trope.
- If a young attractive female character is introduced to a series and some fuss is made over the "fact" that she smokes, then it is near certain that that will be the last time that she is seen with tobacco, or that it will even be mentioned. Examples-
- Lois Lane in Smallville;
- Mimi Clark in Jericho;
- Marissa Taylor in the defunct Australian comedy/drama Always Greener. Admittedly this last one could be regarded as just a set-up for a joke about an exploding cow, but credibility was stretched in a later episode where she stood right next to another character who was smoking, without batting an eyelid.
- Gia from Full House
- A particularly extreme example appeared on Rome, with the reveal that Octavian was deeply in love with (as in, wanted to have sex with) his own sister. Not only had nothing even hinting about this ever come up before, but the episode itself has zero hints about it until Servilia lets his sister know— which actually justifies it, as he was clearly very good at keeping it secret.
- In "TOW The Thumb". When the others berate Chandler for his smoking, he rattles off a list of their annoying habits that he puts up with, such as Joey's knuckle-cracking, Phoebe chewing her hair and Monica snorting when she laughs. None of them ever came up before (though this is understandable, since it's only the third episode), or after. The one about Ross overpronouncing every word applies, though.
- Ridiculously played straight with Chandler's shyness and inability to even talk to attractive girls in "The One With The Cheap Wedding Dress" (where Joey and Ross try to date the same girl). In the entire series preceding that point, although he was usually unlucky in love in the long run, he'd been shown as an admirably competent pickup artist capable of striking up conversations and dispensing hilarious off-the-cuff witticisms with attractive women in almost any situation. He occasionally struck out, but he'd certainly never had a problem talking to any of them. This is particularly jarring considering "TOW Ross Can't Flirt" two seasons earlier, where Ross gets jealous at how easily he can talk to women and Chandler even offers to flirt with him to show how it's done.
- An episode that shows less respect for continuity comes in the Season Five New Year's episode where Rachel suddenly turns into a gossip who can't shut up about her coworkers' dirty laundry. The whole thing turns out to be a plot device to launch us into a Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere plot as Rachel resolves to stop gossiping, and then immediately discovers the unkeepable secret that Chandler and Monica are doin' it.
- Several episodes made jokes about Chandler being more emotional than the other guys, and "The One With All The Candy" specifically pointed him out as the most likely to cry (and he did). Then, in "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry" it turns out...
- Aesops about snoring tend to suffer from this, as characters spontaneously develop the habit and then no reference is made to this afterwards. Examples include Joey from Friends (Chandler can suddenly hear him through the wall after living with him for five years with no problem), Charles Winchester from M*A*S*H (due to allergies), and Homer Simpson from The Simpsons (he suddenly starts snoring loudly after years of sleeping with his wife).
- Done in Red Dwarf where the crew is forced through the air ducts of Starbug. Lister is revealed to have claustrophobia. Subverted somewhat when Cat lists a number of examples where he's been trapped in a confined space and didn't freak out, naturally this didn't help Lister.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Worf was the victim of this in the episode where a genderless alien species showed up, and he was saying things like it being "unnatural" and the like. This particular prejudice wasn't seen previously in all the cases where he met aliens who didn't have a traditional gender setup, and never appeared again.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- When Odo becomes involved with the Female Changeling in "Behind the Lines" and "Favor the Bold," he becomes utterly obsessed with linking. Given that their linking scenes have the feel of love scenes, and that he neglects other duties to link with her, his actions seem to be a metaphor for sex addiction. Oddly enough, he never demonstrated this kind of obsession with linking when he melded with fellow Changelings before or afterwards.
- There was a late episode, where there was a homicidal shapeshifter on the station, and the other main characters responded by revealing their prejudice against shapeshifters, which had never been hinted at before, even after years of fighting a Dominion run by shapeshifters. Might have been partly explained by that particular shapeshifter constantly harping about how everyone else was prejudiced against him for being so superior to them (which inclined them to treat him like a jerk). Odo's friends make an effort to be nice to the stand-offish stranger at first, but he brushes them off and accuses them of trying to make Odo an Uncle Tom.
- Similar example in Star Trek: Voyager, in an episode where the Doctor found out that Janeway had tampered with his memories to prevent him going "insane" over an old triage case, and Janeway and the entire crew suddenly seemed to develop an anti-AI prejudice which then immediately vanished again next episode.
- Made worse because another episode had them arguing the Doctor was a person, not just an AI, when he was denied rights over the publishing of his holonovel for being a hologram.
- Huh? The question of just how much rights the Doctor has comes up several times over the course of the series. It's not a sudden "anti-AI prejudice" but a matter of friends like Kes and Seven (and eventually the Doctor himself) recognising that a computer program created as an emergency backup system has needs (and later — rights) and convincing others to recognise that.
- It's more a case of the show bordering on Negative Continuity and being very fond of the Reset Button, so characters constantly keep learning and forgetting the same lessons. The result is that whether or not the other characters recognise the Doctor as a person varies according to the plot.
- This happens all the time in Degrassi.
- This was largely a result of Executive Meddling. The creators of the show initially wanted to portray vices more realistically, but CTV, considering Degrassi to be an educational show, forced them to make every Very Special Episode show a compressed vice, allowing younger viewers to see the moral quickly, Once the show switched channels, they began portraying vices more realistically (examples: Fiona is shown to be drinking excessively for a large part of the season before being revealed as an alcoholic, Cam is shown to be suffering from depression and anxiety before committing suicide, and Katie pops pain pills for several episodes before being sent to rehab).
- Vampire's strong vulnerability to werewolf blood in Being Human Wasn't heard of and only revealed very offhandedly several seasons in.
- Tommy from 3rd Rock is revealed in one episode to have been hiding sandwich bags full of spices to indulge his secret cooking hobby in secret ("It's marijuana, I smoke it with friends I swear!"). This is never mentioned again.
- M*A*S*H: the plot of episode "C*A*V*E" is based on Hawkeye's suffering from crippling claustrophobia, which had never been mentioned before and was never referred to again.
- Likewise Commander Straker in the UFO episode "Sub-Smash". He develops claustrophobia on a submarine despite operating numerous times in spacecraft which should give him similar problems.
- The Professionals: In "Klansmen" Bodie displays overt racist behaviour never shown previously by his character; it's not that such tendencies would be unusual in that era, especially from a decidedly working-class bloke like Bodie, but it was completely out of left-field and due to the events of the episode (in which his life is saved by a black doctor) we never see it again. Actor Lewis Collins was not pleased.
- Subverted in the Malcolm in the Middle episode where Francis turns out to have been in AA despite never having been shown getting drunk in previous episodes. The other characters find out that he had all the signs of alcoholism except for drinking.
- How I Met Your Mother
- An episode deals with the annoying habits of the group. The bad habits of Ted, Marshall, Barney and Robin are noticeable prior to the episode (although Robin's misuse of the word was subtle before it was pointed out), and they still have them in later episodes. Lily's habit of chewing too loudly is a true Compressed Vice, as it appeared only for that episode. Justified in later episodes featuring the characters throwing "interventions" to stop each other's similar minor annoying habits: though Barney's use of magic was featured in previous episodes, other characters' habits had just never been incorporated into Future Ted's unreliable narration.
- Lily is a frequent victim of this. One episode gave her a complete inability to aim just because the episode was about the group's blind spots in regards to common knowledge (something that doesn't even follow the main theme anyway...), and another episode claimed she had many similarities to Marshall's father just because the episode was about the psychological tendency to end up with someone like your parents.
- Another episode shows all five characters being habitual cigarette smokers. Previously, Barney, Robin and Lily had been seen smoking cigars, and it was hinted that Robin smoked cigarettes, but this episode portrayed Robin as practically a chimney. The other characters don't smoke nearly as often, but obviously way more than has ever been let on before. Ted's children are stunned at the news. Justified, as Future Ted on-occasion realizes he forgot to mention seemingly-obvious plot points until they became relevant to the story.
- Saved by the Bell: Jessie Spano's one-episode caffeine pill addiction.
- Blair Warner in The Facts of Life develops a one-show gambling addiction in a 1986 episode. At the end, she swears it off only for a woman behind her to hit the jackpot using the same machine. Hilarity Ensues.
- In the Lent episode of Father Ted, while Ted's smoking and Jack's drinking have been previously established, Father Dougal's addiction to roller blading only exists in this episode. However, as the whole series runs on Negative Continuity and Rule of Funny, this scarcely seems to matter.
- An odd example from 24 in that Jack's heroin addiction from season three is dealt with over multiple episodes, but since those episodes take place over one day, he really should be suffering for far more than the first few hours. But then, many examples can be taken from the show where people get over things (emotionally or physically) way faster than they should realistically be able to - Tony having major surgery after being shot but getting straight back to work just a couple of hours later, for example. The heroin thing was handwaved by Jack being given some vague other drug that would mask the withdrawal symptoms for about a day, i.e. the rest of the season, after the writers realized it was becoming more trouble than it was worth.
- Eri in Tensou Sentai Goseiger is revealed to be very messy and lazy in Epic 9, causing her to clash with Moune as part of their focus episode. These bad habits are never mentioned before or since.
- For the Glee episode "The Power of Madonna", the boys are suddenly shown mis-treating the girls in various ways to a highly exaggerated extent, in order to setup the feminist message of the episode. This is incredibly jarring because, for instance, Artie is shown being rude and misogynistic to Tina, even though he has never displayed this attitude before.
- Glee does this a lot, honestly. A few other examples include Mercedes developing a borderline eating disorder (cured by a granola bar and a "Don't worry, you're beautiful" talk), Rachel becoming self-conscious about her big nose (cured by a song and dance number), everyone becoming a heavy drinker (cured by solemn talk from Mr. Schue), Ryder suddenly having crippling dyslexia (which isn't cured, it's just sort of... not mentioned again), Tina all of a sudden being jealous of Rachel (cured when she's promised solos next year, which incidentally never happens)
- Although, in regards to Ryder's dyslexia, he was a fairly new character and he was set up as a poor student despite being smart before hand. But his dyslexia is never mentioned again until early next season where he's able to read perfectly now.
- Stumpy's gambling addiction isn't mentioned at all in season one of Carnivŕle, even though by the beginning of the second series he has the debt collectors after him and a $400 debt (in old-timey Great Depression-era money). Adjusted for inflation, $400 in 1934 would be worth about $6443.73 in 2010's dollars.
- In one Very Special Episode of Boy Meets World, Shawn gets drunk for the first time and then has a drinking problem for about a week before his friends convince him to give up drinking altogether. However, he does turn back to alcohol in an episode two seasons later after he learns some devastating news, though only for that episode.
- In one episode of Alice, Alice, Flo, and Vera all try to help each other kick their previously-unmentioned vices: Alice eats too many sweets, Flo drinks too much coffee, and Vera very uncharacteristically smokes. None of these vices, or the fact that at the end of the episode, they had all switched vices, was ever mentioned again.
- In the Community episode "Regional Holiday Music", Glee Club instructor Mr. Rad insists that Britta play the part of a mute tree, and when we finally see Britta sing her awkward song, we understand why - she's terrible. Thing is, we've heard Britta sing in other episodes. We hear Britta sing in the very next scene. She's not terrible at all unless the plot requires it.
- The The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Mary's Insomnia" has Mary turning to sleeping pills to get over a new-found case of insomnia, becoming dependent on them, and getting over her addiction, all within one 25-minute episode.
- Subverted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dee and Dennis spend an episode addicted to crack, but by the end they're off to a recovery program. In later episodes, no mention is made of their previous addiction... until "Frank's Pretty Woman," where they encounter crack again. Dennis immediately flees the scene, saying that it's not a safe place for him, then soon afterwards convinces Mac that crack is awesome and they should go get some.
- Actually, it usually gets brought up when relevant. Such as in "The Gang Gets Whacked," where Dee and Charlie start doing cocaine, and Charlie says they'll be fine as they already got over their crack (Dee) and glue-sniffing (Charlie) addictions. Dee counters that *she* beat crack, but Charlie did glue just that morning. They continue doing coke regardless. Either way, we never get episodes about anyone actually working through an addiction, it'll just be said to have happened offscreen.
- CeCe Jones in one episode of Shake It Up is revealed to be dyslexic. Although she is portrayed throughout as Book Dumb, the dyslexia is never mentioned again. This is an Actor Allusion, since Bella Thorne suffers from this in Real Life.
- House of Anubis- In season 2 Sibuna all admit that they have phobias that make it hard to get through one of the tasks. These phobias came out of nowhere, and were fixed pretty quickly. Alfie's phobia, (Claustrophobia) at least, was mentioned again in season 3, and Amber's bug phobia was mentioned in passing earlier on. But the rest of them? Never mentioned again.
- In an episode of Mama's Family, Thelma Harper becomes addicted to the local home shopping network and starts filling the house with useless stuff. After failing to make her stop, the rest of the family comes up with an idea: They agree to watch the shopping show with her, and whenever she tries to buy something, scream "NO!" and hit her over the head. It works, as the home shopping bug doesn't come up in any following episodes.
- Frasier: Happens to Niles a few times. One episode sees him become obsessed with one of his nephew Freddy's videogames; another has him develop a fast food addiction.
- A Very Special Episode of Hannah Montana reveals that Oliver Oken has Type 1 diabetes and cannot eat sugar. The issue is never mentioned again after the episode (which was a rewrite of a previous unaired diabetes-centered episode criticized in test screenings by medical professionals for getting various facts wrong about the condition).
- Happens frequently in 30 Rock, usually to Liz or Jack's current season's love interest. A notable example in Dr. Drew Baird, who gives all the outward signs of being a fairly normal, competent pediatrician is suddenly Too Dumb to Live .
- Inverted and possibly subverted in the webcomic Narbonic, where Dave's chain-smoking habit is established early on and continually referenced. However, after Dave goes back in time and alters the event that causes him to start smoking, he is surprised to find that he has no addiction at all... and the other characters assure him he never did, smoking was never relevant to any of their adventures, and they are confused when he brings it up. The author even devotes a filler comic to two fans explaining how the previous plots where his habit was a key point make sense without it.
- Subverted in Unshelved. A storyline deals with Colleen quitting smoking — when there was no indication of her being a smoker before, and the other characters are surprised to hear about it. At the end of the storyline, it turns out this is because she quit decades ago, when she was still a teenager — she made it sound current as an excuse for being rude to a patron at the library.
- Phelous notes this trope in his review of Mortal Combat Conquest. In an episode where Siro must overcome his pride, Phelous notes that the character has never seemed particularly proud before, has nonsensical motivations in the episode, and actually seems to become more egotistical in later episodes.